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Arlene Wade brought ‘intelligent, driving force’ to our Log House Museum, Duwamish Tribe

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Arlene Wade, then board president, speaks at the Nov. 12, 1996, dedication ceremony for our Log House Museum.
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Arlene Wade, then board vice-president, thanks Greg Nickels, then King County Council member, during a May 30, 1995, Association of King County Heritage Organizations awards ceremony at the Admiral Theater in West Seattle. Looking on are (left) Merrilee Hagen, then president, and Carol Vincent, past president.

For several years in the late 1990s, she was our leader, our passion and our drive – a true force of nature.

She was the indefatigable and ebullient Arlene Wade, without whose energy and enthusiasm the “Birthplace of Seattle” Log House Museum may not have become our elegantly and insightfully restored organizational home.

Arlene, whose Puget Sound roots ran deep and who was a key contributor to a constellation of heritage and arts projects, died March 25, 2013, at her Normandy Park home after a 13-year battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She was 69.

As an Alki resident and soon after getting involved with our Southwest Seattle Historical Society as a volunteer in 1993, Arlene joined our board of trustees, quickly rising to vice president and, in 1996, to two years as president. And what years they were.

With $200,000 from Metro mitigation funds (conferred by a 1994 vote of Alki residents) to purchase the log building at 3003 61st Ave. S.W., our organization in 1995 faced the enormous challenge of restoring the 1904 structure and opening it as a museum. Several years later, with more than $800,000 in organizational and individual contributions spearheaded by Arlene, the task was complete. The result was celebrated – and its commemoration lives today – in the Log House Circle of donors that graces our museum courtyard.

(Please view a brief video tribute to Arlene by Marcy Johnsen, our board president, filmed by volunteer Mark Jaroslaw)

Arlene also put into profound context the “Birthplace of Seattle” appellation for Alki Beach and our museum. She helped lead the nonprofit Greater Harbor 2000 Commission, and she was an advocate for the Duwamish Tribe for more than two decades, consistently involving the tribe in our organization’s mission and projects, even ensuring that Chief Seattle’s inspiring words were included in the Log House Circle inscription.

In 2000, she shaped “The Spirit Returns” exhibit at our museum, the first time that the story of the Duwamish Indians and the American settlers was told side by side under one roof. She also worked with her husband, George, to arrange financing for land along Harbor Avenue for what became the Duwamish Longhouse and was a prime mover in its construction and completion in 2009, when she and George cut the grand-opening ribbon.

Besides enlisting major financial and institutional support for our historical society, Arlene recruited the lifeblood of any nonprofit organization – dedicated volunteers, including our current president, Marcy Johnsen, who spent 14 years of her youth growing up in what became our Log House Museum.

“I knew I had met a terrific friend and mentor,” Johnsen says. “She encouraged me, included me and taught me ways to enhance the skills I possessed to fit the needs of our organization. I cherish the time we spent together. I often look to Arlene’s mentoring when considering proposals and ask myself, how did Arlene do it?”

Indeed, how did she do it? “She truly understood people and loved them all, irrespective of their color or creed,” says her husband, George. “Countless people have told me of ways she touched their lives, many of which I never knew. She was totally self-effacing but an intelligent, driving force in any of the many causes she championed.”

Her prominence in heritage projects easily took the spotlight away from her other significant roles in civic affairs. Arlene was a mental-health counselor, with a bachelor’s degree in education at Seattle Pacific College, a master’s in social work from the University of Washington and three years of advanced training at the Seattle Psychoanalytic Institute. With Toby Saks, Arlene and George Wade founded the Seattle Chamber Music Festival in 1982, and she served on the board of the Cornish College of the Arts, helping boost its reputation to a new level of excellence.

As a devoted mother, Arlene often provided piano accompaniment to her son Brady, who achieved Northwest honors on the violin. Via Arlene, Brady also was a frequent participant in Southwest Seattle Historical Society events.

As a prelude to these accomplishments, the teenage Arlene Gay Hinderlie summoned fortitude and spark to serve as Miss Kitsap while growing up in Port Orchard. Soon thereafter, she ascended to the top ambassadorial role for Seattle’s annual summer festival. Decades later, Paul Dorpat, for more than three decades the “Now and Then” photo historian of the Seattle Times, alluded to this in writing about Arlene’s fundraising leadership: “Arlene’s smarts, energy and sincerity were dominating, and the cabin is now quite a nifty museum for West Seattle history – thanks in great measure to the 1963 Seafair Queen.”

George and Brady, along with two brothers, three stepchildren, six stepchildren and three stepgrandchildren survive Arlene. A celebration of her life is set for 2 p.m. Saturday, June 2 2013, at Lagerquist Hall at Pacific Lutheran University, where Hinderlie Hall is named after Arlene’s grandparents. The school maintains a Wade-Hinderlie Scholarship Fund. Our historical society also will plan a special occasion in her honor.

Clay Eals, executive director
Southwest Seattle Historical Society

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